How About Some Sparkling Wine on a South African Farm?

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After such a great festive season, many of you may have opted for a “dry January” of no alcohol consumption to try and cleanse the livers and start the year off fresh. Once you’re finished with all that, consider sparkling wine for a winter celebratory drink.

Every year sees various trends and fashions, with a whole year ahead one can only ponder what it will bring. Will we see a revival of the Tamagotchi? Will the Helix screw cork take off? What will the next fad diet be? One current focus and point of interest for the next year seems to be English Sparkling Wine. The terroir of France’s Champagne region is similar to that of Southern England; they have the same chalky soil and global warming has seen Champagne warm up and England cool down. In early December last year, Taittinger purchased vineyard land in Kent with the intention of producing premium English Sparkling Wines, the first time that a Champagne house has invested in the UK. So this is a very exciting time for the UK, but whilst they are starting up, there are already outstanding examples of Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) in South Africa produced by well-established wine farms.

steenberg pano final HR

A view over the beautiful Steenberg Vineyards in Cape Town. South Africa boasts some of the best vineyards in the world.

One such MCC I’d like to focus on is the Steenberg Lady R Méthode Cap Classique 2010, a stunning premium sparkling wine which was recently launched. Steenberg, founded in 1682 by Catharina Ustings Ras in the Constantia Valley, is a farm rich in history with many stories. One of the more popular ones is poor Catharina’s terrible luck at keeping husbands alive (she obviously never practiced with a goldfish as a child). She came to South Africa from Germany in 1662 as a widow, and as South Africa was a rather fierce and wild place back then she wasted no time finding a second husband, Hans Ras. Hans was unfortunately eventually killed by a lion. Legend has it that Catharina courageously fetched a gun, leaped on her horse and gave chase, shooting the lion herself. Her third husband, was tragically murdered and the fourth was trampled by an elephant. After four husbands she finally settled down with a German, named Matthys Michelse, who must have been hardier as I believe he outlived her.

Steenberg Lady R MCC 2010

The Steenberg Lady R is made in the traditional French method of second fermentation in the bottle and is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% barrel-fermented Chardonnay. After fermentation the wine was aged on the lees (dead yeast cells) for an impressive 55 months, just short of five years, each year representing one of Catharina’s husbands. The wine is low in alcohol at 11.5% abv as well as low in sugar at 4g/l (for a Brut (which is dry), the sugar needs to be below 12g/l). Hence it is the perfect wine for those “dry January” followers and weight watchers.

The Lady R is still extremely fresh and has beautiful ageing ability; it shows lovely crisp red apple and acacia blossom aromas with a mineral edge. The chalkiness carries on to the palate and the wine shows notes of honeycomb and brioche.

What wine do you think will be fashionable in 2016?


Written by Kim Drake.

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